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Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip [Kindle Edition]

Matthew Algeo
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (205 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From Missouri to New York and back again, this recounting of an amazing journey chronicles the road trip of a former president and his wife and their amusing, failed attempts to keep a low profile. Diners, bellhops, and cabbies shouted out “Hiya, Harry!” whenever they recognized the former president, and, out for his daily constitutional on the streets of New York, Harry even stumbled into the sidewalk shot of the newly launched Today show. Along the way there are brief detours into relevant topics, such as the postwar American auto industry, McCarthyism, the development of the nation’s highway system, and the decline of Main Street America. By the end of the 2,500-mile journey, readers will have a new and heartfelt appreciation for America’s last citizen-president.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Public radio reporter Algeo (Last Team Standing) brings the 1950s into focus with a fascinating reconstruction of Harry and Bess Truman's postpresidential 2,500-mile road trip. I like to take trips—any kind of trip, Truman wrote. They are about the only recreation I have besides reading. Between 2006 and 2008, Algeo retraced their journey with stopovers at some of the same diners and hotels the couple visited. When Truman left the White House in 1953, he returned to Independence, Mo., rejecting lucrative offers he felt would commercialize the presidency. His only income was a small army pension. Acquiring a 1953 Chrysler, the Trumans set out with no fanfare and a curious notion of traveling incognito. However, reporters and newsreel cameras soon turned their vehicular vacation into an ongoing media event. The book benefits from extensive research through oral history interviews and papers at the Harry S. Truman Library, and Algeo's own interviews with eyewitnesses. With deliberate detours, this book is a portal into the past with layers of details providing unusual authenticity and a portrait of the president as an ordinary man. 20 b&w photos, 1 map. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"With deliberate detours, this book is a portal into the past with layers of details providing unusual authenticity and a portrait of the president as an ordinary man."  —Publishers Weekly

"Matthew Algeo recalls [my grandparents'] memorable trip beautifully and with the sense of humor it deserves."  —Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of Harry S. Truman

"Enlivened by Algeo"s endeavors to see the places where Truman stopped, this is an engaging historical sidebar."  — Booklist Online

"An engaging account . . . Well-researched."  —Wall Street Journal

"Combines . . . history with the ever-popular road book, researching, duplicating, and reporting in detail on the last trip the Trumans took, driving their new Chrysler to Washington, and back to Independence."  —Max J. Skidmore, author, After the White House: Former Presidents as Private Citizens

"Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure resonates Aaron Copeland's 'Fanfare for the Common Man'—brassy, bright, energetic, brief and declaratively American."  —Washington Times

"Algeo has done a first-rate job of piecing together the trip . . . a fascinating reading experience." —Jackson Free Press

"Charming and engrossing."  —Riverfront Times

Product Details

  • File Size: 1711 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1556527772
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; Reprint edition (May 1, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004D4Y1PO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,033 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
102 of 106 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is so uniquely fascinating it is in a class by itself! It combines historical political content and world news... it includes world events that President Harry Truman effected in an expertly sequenced presentation... it gives an unabashed look at the way *WE-THE-PEOPLE-OF-THE-UNITED-STATES* really were in the 1950's which was probably the last decade of true innocence. It gives an intimate look at the private being of one of the twentieth century's most influential characters... and it is *ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS*... in a humor that doesn't really revolve around any jokes. The humor is actually the unadulterated absurdity of a trip that not only is completely impossible to happen today... but probably impossible to ever take place in the rest of recorded time.

Former President Harry S. Truman... a mere few months after leaving office... decides to take a "road-trip" with his loving wife Bess in their new 1953 Chrysler New Yorker from Missouri to Washington D.C... to Philadelphia for his first post-Presidential speech... and then to New York for some sightseeing... and then back to Missouri. The reader will be made aware of some shocking doses of reality... which is what makes this so darn funny. At that point in time former Presidents were *NOT* provided with any secret service protection... and former Presidents got absolutely *NO* pensions. When Harry left the White House he had to get a loan in order to survive. "A chain of clothing stores offered him a job for a hundred thousand dollars a year as a "sales manager". The author chronicles the Truman's road trip in exquisite detail and you will chuckle out loud when the former Commander-In-Chief stops in small coffee shops and less than elegant hotels... and the response of everyday people... when after multiple double-takes...
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Excellent Read! April 13, 2009
In the age of paparazzi and the 24-hour news cycle, the thought of a U.S. president traveling sans security and often going unrecognized is simply astonishing. Matthew Algeo's account of the Trumans' trip is astonishing in its own right.

Constantly entertaining, frequently laugh-out-loud funny, HARRY TRUMAN'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE is an extraordinary book. Equal parts history and travelogue, Algeo beautifully paints a picture not just of the famously in love Harry and Bess, but of a rapidly changing America in the mid-20th Century. And by recreating the Trumans' journey himself, Algeo shows us just how much things have changed in the last half-century.

For a fascinating, truly unique read, I highly recommend this book.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent adventure March 26, 2009
I was 11 years old when this trip took place, and yes, people actually did drive for "the fun of it" back then. The story was a nice mixture of life in the '50s and a look at Harry Truman's unique personality. Lots of Presidential and other trivia (from turnpikes to tailfins) await the reader, as well.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bess rode shotgun April 1, 2010
When Harry Truman left the White House in 1953 he returned to what he anticipated would be normal life in Independence, Missouri. That summer, however, he and his wife returned to Washington for a speech and decided to make it a road trip and drive themselves in his new Chrysler - no secret service, no reporters, no fanfare. Even though Truman left office with an abysmal 22% approval rating he was recognized and enthusiastically greeted at almost every stop. Police chiefs and sheriffs sometimes assigned protection while the Trumans were in their county and Harry was pulled over a few times. They stayed in motels and were hounded for autographs and photos by diners in restaurants, gas station attendants, and the press. Harry graciously obliged.

This is a fun little book (230 pages) that retraces Truman's route with numerous detours to explain the politics, geography, and social conditions of the time. Author Matthew Algeo also recounts his own adventure following the route - what restaurants and hotels are still there and what they're like now, what's replaced them, and his experiences visiting some of the same people who greeted Harry along the way (some even invited him to eat and spend the night in their homes). This isn't serious or heavy history - it's a light-hearted and short diversion - but it ought to be perfect summer or vacation reading. It's amusing and insightful and offers a window into a more quaint and friendly era.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia September 19, 2009
If you've ever doubted that a decent book can be written about anything at all, give a chance to Matthew Algeo's book, Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip. Algeo describes a 1953 road trip that Harry and Bess Truman took from Independence, Missouri to Washington, on to New York, and back to Independence after Eisenhower became president. Harry did all the driving in a vehicle that's almost a character in the book: a black 1953 Chrysler New Yorker. Algeo retraced the Truman's route, and added a quirky dimension to the book by inserting his own experiences at some of the stops along the way, and what happened to some places in the intervening decades. This book presents a great image of 1953, with a decent dose of nostalgia, and personalization by the insertion of Algeo's current experience of this route. The pictures helped, mostly because every time I saw a photo Harry Truman's wide smile, especially when behind the wheel of the New Yorker, I found myself leaning into a grin of my own.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Fascinating information - how times have changed!
Published 1 month ago by Sandy B
5.0 out of 5 stars America’s last citizen-president
I enjoyed every mile of this odyssey and have a new appreciation for "America’s last citizen-president. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sam-I-Am
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating and Delightful ... Truly an Excellent Adventure
What a delightful little story. I've read a lot of presidential history, but nothing nearly so enjoyable as this account, which transports the reader back to a time that is forever... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jim Ray
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Liked it
Published 2 months ago by Anthony L.
5.0 out of 5 stars a great president, a great ex-president.
a great president.
Published 2 months ago by portabull
5.0 out of 5 stars Time Travel
Using Harry Truman's post retirement trip from Missouri to the East Coast as a framework, Algeo opens windows into the comforts and trials of the 1950's in a very personal way. Read more
Published 2 months ago by David Warren
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Look Into the Life of a Unique, Great President
A very interesting adventure presented in an interesting manner. About an interesting, different, great president. President Harry S. Truman.
Published 3 months ago by Bob
4.0 out of 5 stars Harry and Bess's Excellent Adventure
Reading this book is kind of like having a conversation with that uncle that knows a lot of stuff but spins it (get sidetracked?) with related, interesting tidbits. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Suzanne Jackson
4.0 out of 5 stars It was an easy read and written in a manner that motivated one ...
The novel is both informative and entertaining. It was an easy read and written in a manner that motivated one to continue. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Alline C. Greer
Our book today is for those of you who took road trips this summer. Or are planning road trips in the future. Or have ever taken a road trip. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Janie Junebug
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More About the Author

When he's not writing his own biography in the third person, Matthew Algeo writes about unusual and interesting events in American history.

His latest book, Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport, is now on sale.

Algeo is also a journalist. He has reported from four continents, and his stories have appeared on some of the most popular public radio programs in the United States.

In addition to reporting and writing, Algeo has held jobs as a convenience store clerk, a gas station attendant, a Halloween costume salesman, and a proofreader. He also worked in a traveling circus (as a hot dog vendor; no acrobatics involved).

His wife Allyson is a U.S. Foreign Service officer. They live near Washington with their daughter Zaya.


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